NESTLED in the heart of the Alpujarra mountains of Andalucia lies the most charming village you’ve never heard of: Mecina Bombaron is a fairytale come to life, not least because it is an official ‘book town’ that has works of literature inscribed on practically every section of its whitewashed streets.
Quite simply, books are infused with everyday life in this quiet spot, from plant pots painted with poetry to bins bearing Harry Potter covers.
You live and breathe everything from the stanzas of Federico Garcia Lorca to the tomes of Ernest Hemingway, the prose of Cervantes to the rhyming couplets of Shakespeare.
And that’s not all. Mecina Bombaron is one of four book towns now connected by a series of stunning hiking trails, making the region the perfect escape for walkers and literary lovers alike.
Together with Yegen, El Golco and Montenegro they have added a new exciting chapter on the history and cultural importance of the rich and varied Alpujarra region.
The idea came about in the height of the Covid pandemic, when the Mayor of Mecina Bombaron, Jose Antonio Gomez, was confronted with a rapidly declining population, which dipped alarmingly below just 1000 inhabitants in 2020.
Together with leaders from neighbouring Yegen, El Golco and Montenegro, they put their heads together to come up with a plan to save the village through the power of literature.
Inspired by celebrated British author Gerald Brenan, who lived in Yegen for many years, Granada’s ‘book towns’ were born.
A great hook to celebrate the literary history of the area, the South of Granada author brought London’s famous Bloomsbury Group to Spain in the first half of the last century.
The likes of Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell and Lytton Strachey beat their way to his door in the rural escape, a hop and a skip from the snowline of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The legendary travel writer Bruce Chatwin even wove his way up to the 1,000-metre high village in the 1970s, later comparing the region to Afghanistan.
So important was Brenan’s love affair with the Alpujarras, he has been fittingly immortalised with a British-style blue plaque dedicated to him in Yegen.
From this humble beginning, the project is now thriving, explains the Mecina Mayor:
“Literature is such a wide reaching topic it allows us to develop in many different ways, so it’s a very sustainable idea,” he told the Olive Press.
“It also complements the beautiful landscapes we are already surrounded by. The population here is seeing it more and more as their project and they choose the books we use.
“That means the project has a future and so do we.”
Visitors can take a stroll through the villages, spotting their favourite novels on benches, stables and fountains while admiring sweeping vistas of the nearby hills.
The mix of classics like Don Quixote and Romeo and Juliet, alongside children’s books such as The Little Prince, make this a great activity for families, couples or solo travellers.
Located in old phone boxes you will even find book exchanges, which are a free initiative designed to give locals and visitors the chance to discover a new book.
And then comes the best bit with a series of carefully marked routes going between all the villages, the best being the walking route inspired by Gerald Brenan around Yegen.
But if a serious hike isn’t for you, a stroll around Mecina Bombaron’s acequias (streams) is a tranquil way to spend an afternoon, even in the summer thanks to the abundant shade of thousands of chestnut trees.
Start at the ‘Fuente Libro Don Pio’, a delightful book-shaped fountain inspired by Pio Navarro Alcala Zamora’s sociological study of the town.
Follow the ‘Acequia Baja’ which leads to a series of ramshackle stone houses and bubbling brooks, with views in abundance.
On your return make sure to grab a coffee or cana at either Casa Joaquin or Bar Nevaillo. But beware, the sign outside the latter which warns customers; ‘I open when I come, I close when I go’, encapsulating the town’s laidback lifestyle.
This relaxed attitude is not one officials want to change with their new influx of tourists: “The world is continually getting faster, more stressful and more artificial,” explains Gomez. “We offer a return to nature and the quiet life.”
In the future, council leaders hope to expand the project, with plaques on each street dedicated to novels.
They will be accompanied by a QR code so visitors can learn more about the novel, alongside a translation in braille.
The towns are also now home to the Andalucian Poetry Prize (Certamen Andaluz de la Poesia Alpujarra) and next year, they hope to launch a new literary prize as well as literature conferences and talks.
As poet Gabriel Garcia Lorca, a frequent visitor from nearby Granada city once said about the area: “There is nothing as sad as being blind in Granada”